Westminster City Council has released initial details for the new Oxford Street District (OSD) framework, developed with key strategic partners. This vision includes a unique new Marble Arch visitor attraction and a reimagining of the capital’s iconic high street.
This vision aims to secure the long-term future of the high street as the greenest, smartest and most sustainable District in the world. Thanks to a package of interim support to aid recovery after the pandemic, work could begin within weeks.
Kickstarting London’s recovery
The project will restore the area as a must-visit destination for both domestic and international visitors, and encourage businesses to start and grow once restrictions ease. A key element of the plan is the creation of ‘Marble Arch Hill’, a temporary visitor attraction.
The council’s leader, Cllr Rachael Robathan, unveiled a blueprint to reinvent the high street in the wake of the global pandemic, and into the future. The plans demonstrate the council’s commitment to the area, having been in development before COVID-19 hit and now updated to reflect recent changes to shopping habits and working patterns.
Working within the themes of Greener, Smarter, Future and Together, the project will create a competitive centre for innovative retail, commercial activities, culture and living.
- Focusing investment on three defined areas – Oxford Circus & Bond Street, Marble Arch and East Oxford Street. This will also benefit the surrounding areas
- Cleaner air across the District through cutting-edge sustainability initiatives
- Exploring new models of living and working
- Delivering a world-class public realm with a focus on play
- Strengthening the area’s position as a global centre for culture, arts, leisure and creative industries
Work to start straight away
Westminster has committed £150 million to kickstart the plan and several immediate projects will be getting underway within weeks, such as:
- Encouraging a wider range of businesses and a more varied range of shops, including pop-ups, offices, restaurants and cultural or leisure activities
- A new ‘Marble Arch Hill’ temporary visitor attraction, bringing the atmosphere of Hyde Park closer to the high street. Subject to planning permission, this 25 metre-high attraction could welcome IP to 200,000 people, depending on the current COVID regulations.
- A proposed range of intensive, interim improvements on Oxford Street to create extra pedestrian space, pop-up parks, new lighting, landscaping, greening projects and cultural spaces.
Speaking about the project, Robathan says: “This ambitious and comprehensive framework is the blueprint for how we will work with our partners to reinvent successfully the Oxford Street District for decades to come.”
“This is something we’d committed to long before the pandemic, but the last year has underlined why it’s so important. The West End is the engine of the London economy and a huge employer which has been hit hard by the effects of Covid-19.
“We are confident that our bold plans will secure the District’s long-term success, running alongside our creative, interim plans to boost the capital’s post-pandemic recovery. We want to focus attention on this iconic centre of our city which has been increasingly overlooked and cement its status for the future as a key central London destination.
“Our proposed Marble Arch Hill temporary visitor attraction at Marble Arch signifies our
ambitious approach to the District. It will be important for bringing in visitors to support the local economy. However, it will offer so much more.
“We hope it will give people an opportunity to look afresh and with wonder at this well known, but sadly increasingly overlooked, area to recognise its beauty and importance. We want visitors to appreciate the wider context of this iconic location and its close connections to Oxford Street and Hyde Park, as well as other key destinations in the West End and beyond.”
An exciting vision
Publica Founding Director, Lucy Musgrave, says: “As Design Guardian for the Oxford
Street District, we have been involved with this project for a number of years, and the launch of the framework document in particular marks an important next step for reimagining the district and delivering on the City Council’s bold civic leadership. We are honoured to have been able to help.”
“This is a landmark project for London, Westminster City Council, its many stakeholders and Publica alike. The framework sets out a hugely ambitious and exciting vision for a world-famous street and its surrounding areas.
“The Oxford Street District forms a vital part of London’s positioning as a world city. This framework brings with it a set of values on sustainability, innovation and inclusion that will provide a global showcase of urban change, and will work to better serve its community and businesses.”
To celebrate the launch of the Oxford Street District framework, Westminster City Council
and Publica commissioned Squint/Opera, the creative digital studio and consultancy, to create a film that showcases the vision through animation and storytelling.
Squint/Opera Head of Creative, Alice Britton says, “We worked with the Westminster City Council and Publica to communicate the new vision for the Oxford Street District through a short animated film.
“Our aim is to help engage people and communicate the core components of the plan in a simple and exciting way. The short film shows a brief history of the area, noting its adaptability and importance to both Londoners and visitors, while also introducing the core elements of the proposal to create a greener and smarter, future together.
“It’s an exciting regeneration of this infamous area and we’re delighted to work with the team on this project.”
Squint/Opera also recently worked with the Empire State Building on a project to reimagine the Observatory experience.
Images and video clips courtesy of Squint/Opera